Svengoolie is a hosted horror movie show in the U.S. The show's title is taken from the name of the character host. The show is a long-running local program in the Chicago area and in recent years expanded nationally, airing Saturday nights on MeTV.
|Also known as||
|Created by||Jerry G. Bishop|
|Directed by||Chris M. Faulkner|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer(s)||Rich Koz|
|Producer(s)||Chris M. Faulkner|
|Location(s)||Chicago, Illinois, USA|
|Editor(s)||Chris M. Faulkner|
|Camera setup||Malcom Conyers|
|Running time||120 minutes|
|Production company(s)||U-City Productions|
|Original release||September 18, 1970– present|
The show airs both low-budget and classic horror and science-fiction movies, with host "Svengoolie" – a telescoping of the words Svengali and ghoul – played by Rich Koz (pronounced "Koze"), who wears thick skull-like makeup around his eyes, a moustache and goatee, a fright wig, all black, and a black top hat, along with a tuxedo jacket over a bright red, open-collared, button-down shirt.
Just before and after commercial breaks, Svengoolie presents sketches, tells corny jokes, and performs song parody spoofs of the film being aired. Some shows were presented in what was later dubbed "Sven-surround" – a pun on "Sensurround", a brand name theater audio system – in which Svengoolie would joke as the film aired, similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000, but with sound effects as well. This stunt was discontinued for a short time, then brought back due to viewer request, although as a clip segment aired outside the film.
One relatively recent addition to the show is the simultaneous use of twitter with the hashtag #svengoolie, allowing those watching to comment on the show.
In August 2006, it was announced that WCIU had obtained broadcast rights to the classic Universal Monsters films of the 1930s and 1940s. These films had been requested since Svengoolie aired in the 1980s. By December 2006, the show featured four episodes of the Abbott and Costello "Meet" series, with Universal Studio Monsters and several Hammer Film Productions that were distributed by Universal-International. On May 5, 2007, Svengoolie presented Bela Lugosi's Dracula (1931), claiming it was the first time the movie had been shown on local television in more than a decade.
The show opens with a reference to early radio broadcasting: "Calling all stations, clear the air lanes, clear all air lanes for the big broadcast." This is a sound clip from the preview "trailer" of one of the four "Big Broadcast Of .... (1932, 1936, 1937, 1938)" movies. In a running gag throughout the series, Svengoolie's mentions of the Chicago suburb of Berwyn are met with an audio clip of several people groaning, "BERWYN?!?" Another recurring gag involves rubber chickens being thrown at Svengoolie after a weak joke, usually at the end of an episode's opening and closing sketches. Visitors assist the crew in throwing rubber chickens during taping. Sound clips from Warner Bros. cartoons ("Oh we're the boys of the Chorus....etc."), and radio broadcasts of The Stan Freberg Show ("Thank you for all those cards and letters, you folks in television LANT....." from "Wun'erful, Wun'erful" and "Ow, OW, OW!!!" from "The HoneyEarthers") are used frequently.
- "Svengoolie", the title character and host of the show, who introduces the film, tells jokes and relates trivia about the movie. The character was originally portrayed by former WCFL personality Jerry G. Bishop (1936–2013), who held the role from 1970 to 1973. When the show returned in 1979, Rich Koz took on the role of "Son of Svengoolie", which he portrayed until 1986, when the show was cancelled. In 1995, Koz was set to bring the show back and Bishop told him he was "all grown up" and could drop the "Son of" from his character name. Koz has been playing "Svengoolie" ever since.
- "Doug Graves", who plays the organ for Svengoolie's songs. The part of Graves is played by musician and crew member Doug Scharf.
- "Zallman T. Tombstone", a smart-mouthed, disembodied skull that often acts as a foil for Svengoolie during comedy skits, with a voice based on Bill Saluga's Ray J. Johnson Jr. character.
- "Kerwyn", a smart-aleck rubber chicken who helps Svengoolie review viewer mail and photos.
- "Durwood the Dummy", a wooden ventriloquist's dummy featured on the original series (1970-73).
The latter three characters and many other incidental characters throughout the show's run were voiced by Rich Koz.
Rich Koz did most of the artwork for the show when he revived it as Son of Svengoolie at WFLD. For every episode, Koz researches the film to find interesting facts, then writes each episode, spending about four hours doing so.
The camera shots and audio effects are handled by director Chris Faulkner and Kevin Reisberg, the show's assistant director.
In 2014, the original casket prop used by both Bishop and Koz on camera was retired and donated to the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. Segments showcasing the original casket continued to be rebroadcast on the MeTV schedule. Rebroadcasts often will use improved prints of the films if they have become available, while keeping the old comedy skits.
The show's original title was Screaming Yellow Theater with host Svengoolie. The title was derived from Screaming Yellow Zonkers, a yellow, sugary glazed popcorn snack, first produced in the 1960s. It wasn't until the revival that the show title and host's name were one and the same. It debuted on September 18, 1970 on WFLD (Channel 32) and ran until late summer 1973. Svengoolie was played then by Jerry G. Bishop. In later seasons, Rich Koz – a fan who sent in sketch ideas – became a show writer. In 1973, Kaiser Broadcasting took over WFLD from Field Communications and Screaming Yellow Theater was cancelled and replaced with The Ghoul from Cleveland. The Ghoul lasted until 1974 when it was taken off the air. Field Communications took WFLD back from Kaiser Broadcasting in 1978, which led Jerry Bishop and Rich Koz to discuss the show's resurrection.
On June 16, 1979, Son of Svengoolie debuted on WFLD, with Koz in the title role. The show also aired on Field Communications-controlled stations in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Detroit. The series ran until WFLD, then owned by Metromedia, was sold to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television Stations Group in 1986 as part of the newly created Fox network. New management canceled the show, deciding that it did not fit the new programming direction. After 334 shows, the final episode aired January 25, 1986. Koz returned to WFLD in various capacities, mainly as the host of Fox Kids Club and The Koz Zone weekday afternoon children's programming, and appearing as an announcer on the Fox network's 1988 New Year's Eve broadcast.
Neal Sabin, the executive vice president of Weigel Broadcasting, brought the show back on December 31, 1994 on WCIU (Channel 26), using "Svengoolie" as the name; Koz took the role of Svengoolie when Bishop told Koz that he "believed he was grown up enough now to no longer be just the Son." Koz hosts a weekly Three Stooges Stooge-a-palooza show on WCIU.
The series was aired on Chicago's WWME-CA, Milwaukee stations WBME-CD and WMLW-TV, and occasionally on WMYS-LD in South Bend, Indiana. These stations are owned by Weigel Broadcasting. Beginning on April 2, 2011, Svengoolie's show became available nationally on the MeTV network through the efforts of Neal Sabin.
Between 1979 and 1986, Son of Svengoolie won three Chicago Emmys at station WFLD. For its 25th anniversary in 2004, Svengoolie was presented with the Silver Circle Award by the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for "outstanding contributions to Chicago television."
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